If the young American college students in this film had ever seen the 1973 mystery film, The Wicker Man, they would never have done any of the following: travelled to Sweden to stay on some kind of hippy, culty commune at the behest of one of their mates; timed the visit to coincide with a massive once-in-every-ninety-years festival to celebrate the arrival of Mid-summer; allowed themselves to be disorientated and confused as a result of drugs pressed upon them by their so-called Swedish ‘mates’; watched an horrific ceremony involving geronticide- or old people euthanasia- without a murmur of protest or so much as a what the fuck is going on here in this fucked-up fucking place???; had public sex as part of a bizarre fertility ritual and, lastly, they certainly wouldn’t have allowed themselves to become mere kindling on the eventual, terrible fire of sacrifice…

Yes, dear reader, a quick watch of The Wicker Man would have solved those little problems for them all right. The Wicker Man did it first and The Wicker Man did it better. Midsommar is still a great watch, though, if a little long at one-hundred-and-fifty minutes.

Dani is a psychology student who falls to pieces when her sister Terri commits suicide, selfishly taking their parents into the afterlife with her. Her boyfriend Christian, a cultural anthropology student, had been just about to dump Dani for her clinginess and neediness but now, after her family tragedy, he feels like he can’t do it. But their relationship is so unhealthy and Dani so emotionally needy that it would almost be a kindness to give her the push, dead family or not, and put this unhealthy relationship out of its misery.

Instead, he reluctantly invites her along on the trip to Sweden, much to the disgust of all his college mates… all except the Swedish one, who can clearly see a place for Dani in the festivities to come. Christian, Dani, Josh, Mark and Pelle, the Swedish guy, all travel from the States to the commune of the Harga in Sweden, set in splendid rural isolation amongst some of nature’s most fabulous glories.

Christian, who’s still stuck for a subject for his thesis, decides that the secluded cult of the Harga would make an ideal subject, and that’s why he doesn’t push to leave the commune when they all witness a geronticide so appalling that it genuinely would give you nightmares.

The cult leaders explain it away and tell the shocked students that it’s actually a joyous occasion for the geriatrics involved, but it doesn’t look joyous to me, or to Dani. It just looks barbaric, completely and utterly barbaric.

One gets the feeling that the American kids, plus a young couple from London, are being gaslit, in pretty much the same manner as poor old Sgt. Neil Howie in The Wicker Man, into believing that no harm can come to them in a commune where everyone wears flowing white robes and garlands of flowers and lives off the land in an atmosphere of peace and love, learning and harmony. Drugged-up, free-love-having, non-believing-in-Jesus hippies, lol.

The Harga people’s ‘Wicker Man’ is a triangle-shaped, man-made oddity that’s curiously at odds with the scenes of nature all around it. It doesn’t take a genius to work out why these post-grads have been lured from America with the promise of experiencing the fascinating indigenous rituals and ceremonies of another country’s Mid-summer festival.

But the film is still worth watching right to the end of the one-hundred-and-fifty minutes, just to see how Ari Aster, the director of Hereditary, achieves a sort of re-make of The Wicker Man, but without actually mentioning that this is what he’s doing.

It seems at times like the film is a bit crowded, a wee bit too busy, as the director tries to cram as many rituals as he can into the one festival, but how-and-ever. The violence in the film is hard to stomach. Some images are extremely disturbing, while others don’t make much sense or are confusing, misleading.

Some of the rituals, especially the ones that take place at the outside tables during meal-times, go on a bit too long and my mind started to wander for a bit. Male frontal nudity is in evidence in the film too, plus the fiery come-uppance of a cheating scumbag of a boyfriend, lol.

It’s a gorgeous film to look at, with a suitably unsettling score, but I said it earlier and I’ll say it again: The Wicker Man did it first and The Wicker Man did it better. That doesn’t mean that directors shouldn’t try to make a film about a pagan cult who worship the old gods and approve of group sex and human sacrifice. It just means that they have to try to make it a bit different to its predecessors. Does Midsommar succeed in this? I’ll be nice, and give it five out of ten.


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:


wake wood family




Eeeeeeh by gum, this ain’t half a proper little belter of a horror movie. It’s Oirish like meself, to begin with, with loads of the fabulous Oirish scenery, woods, rivers, trees and streams we have on offer here and, no, I don’t work for the bleedin’ Tourist Board, lol.

Can’t stand bloody tourists, me. Sure, they bring millions of foreign dollars, euros and pounds into our economy but every time you try to cross the feckin’ street there’s about a hundred of ’em standing there en masse in a big unmovable block, obscuring your bloody path.

Anyway, to get back to WAKE WOOD (partially shot in Sweden), it’s also a Hammer movie, from the British film production company that, in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, brought us such films as DRACULA, THE MUMMY, THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, THE VAMPIRE LOVERS, LUST FOR A VAMPIRE and FEAR IN THE NIGHT.

Famous for using such magnificent actors as Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, their actresses were women so busty and beautiful that the term ‘Hammer Glamour’ was coined to describe them. WAKE WOOD sees the return of Hammer, as it were, and it’s a film they needn’t be ashamed of. Let’s have a squint at the plot, shall we, and see what we think?

Patrick and Louise Daley are an attractive young couple in their thirties who relocate to a remote Irish village called Wake Wood after the death of their daughter, Alice.

It’s a horrible death, too, as the child is mauled to death by a vicious dog. Patrick, a veterinarian, and Louise, a pharmacist, become estranged from each other after the death, which often happens after a couple lose a child.

What the young grieving couple don’t realise, however, is that Wake Wood is the exact right place to be in if you’ve suffered a bereavement and you want to see your lost loved one again.

Louise in particular is desperate to get her precious daughter back. Even though fathers suffer too- people often forget that fact- the mother’s grief is often the most vocal, the most obvious, because she’s carried this child inside her for nine months and given birth to it in a nightmare of blood, pain and whalesong.

In fact, the weird, clannish and mysterious villagers (they’d put you in mind of the community of Summerisle in the 1973 film THE WICKER MAN), led by the marvellous Timothy Spall as Arthur, have a way of bringing the dead back to life.

It involves a long and complicated pagan ritual that sees a ‘re-birthing’ of the dead person through the nice fresh cadaver of a recently deceased person. ‘Re-birthing’ is a very WICKER MAN idea. The mad inhabitants of Summerisle would be well on board with such an idea.

Timothy Spall as the ‘I see all and hear all’ Arthur offers Patrick and Louise the chance to see their adored daughter Alice again. Alice alive again, to be specific. There are conditions attached, however.

The couple, if they go through with the ritual, must promise to stay in Wake Wood forever and ever and ever, no matter what. Keep the secret in the village, that kind of thing. Fair enough. Patrick, in order to please Louise and keep her with him, would agree to putting on a dress and a flowery hat and calling himself Roxanne if it would only bring Alice back.

Next, Alice will only ‘return’ for three days. The couple will get the chance to say their goodbyes properly this time and make peace with their child’s passing. I say that this mad idea of ‘returning’ will only bring misery and unhappiness to Louise and Patrick. They’ll be losing Alice all over again when the allotted three days are up. How will they bear it?

There’s one final proviso. The ritual will only work correctly if the person to be brought back has been dead less than a year. How long has Alice been in the ground, Patrick and Louise, Arthur asks the couple in all seriousness.

Oh, much less than a year, Arthur, don’t you worry about that, only about eleven months, the couple carol in unison, while looking at each other with the shifty eyes of people who are telling big fat porkies.

If they’re telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, well, grand. Alice will come back for the three days just like Arthur promised. If they’re lying, well, Alice might still come back, but there’ll be something very, very wrong with her. On their own heads be it, I say…

The scene where Patrick and Louise are breaking into their daughter’s coffin in the graveyard, in the dead of night in the middle of a rainstorm, is super-atmospheric. You’ll be reminded of Stephen King’s PET SEMATARY and of an anguished Heathcliff digging up a long-dead Cathy. I also think of DON’T LOOK NOW, in which a couple who’ve lost a child are tormented by what they think are visions of her in her little red raincoat.

I’m reminded too of that old story which I think is called ‘THE MONKEY’S PAW.’ An elderly couple who’ve lost their son in a terrible disfiguring accident are granted their wish to have their beloved boy back with them again. But the thing that has returned from the dead to bang so heavily and ominously on their door one dark stormy night is not the son they remember so fondly…

The whole film- WAKE WOOD, that is- is wonderfully creepy and atmospheric. And it poses the question, should you raise the dead or leave them in peace? Some folks would give their own lives to see a deceased loved one just one more time.

They have things they still want to say, like ‘I love you’ or ‘I’m sorry.’ They might want to ask where the fuck the telly remote is, missing since before the funeral, stuff like that. Or the keys to the bloody shed. They might want to hug the person one more time, or punch them in the face if it was a husband, say, who cheated and you only found out after he’d croaked. But does all this just make the second parting a million times harder to bear?

Personally, I would think that the second parting would be even worse than the first. Plus, you’re messing with things that are better left alone. It’s never a good idea for us mere mortals to play God. Please do bear that in mind, won’t you, if you go down to the woods today…


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


You can contact Sandra at: